Treasury under pressure over Sharman report

‘It is vital that the government accept all the recommendations,’ PAC chairman Edward Leigh said in the Commons today in a heated parliamentary attack on the Treasury.

Leigh spoke out after Labour MP Alan Williams, chairman of the Public Accounts Commission, a separate Commons body which funds the NAO, said the twelve months since the recommendations were published ‘seem to be an abnormally long time’.

He said he understood there have been extensive discussions between the Treasury and comptroller and auditor general Sir John Bourn about the practical arrangements for implementation.

Williams, also a senior member of the PAC, added: ‘There are many extremely important elements in the Sharman report, which would extend considerably parliament’s powers of scrutiny.

‘We want full and early implementation. I hope that we may get a response from the government in March.’

Adding fuel to the fire, Liberal Democrat MP David Rendel said the delay since Lord Sharman reported was ‘intolerable’ and demanded an assurance ‘that they will be put in place in the near future’.

Leigh said it was particularly important that the BBC comes under full NAO audit so the Commons could hold the BBC to account.

Treasury ministers have expressed general agreement with the report, which would enable the NAO to audit PPP arrangements and follow taxpayers’ money wherever spent.

But they have made it clear there must be an understanding about how the NAO will operate so bodies are not subjected to repeated audits and it wants assurance that those who carry out the audits are qualified to work in the private sector.

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